Blue Tokai Coffee Roasters

Coffee Links

Another product with an eye on design – the Viora Lid does not disappoint. We knew Silicon Valley was crazy for its coffee, but this takes thing to a slightly different level. This carefullly designed coffee cup lid heightens the aroma of the coffee. Given the importance of aroma for the coffee drinking experience, we expect to see more inventions soon!


Some great coffee ideas brought to you from around the world. Make sure to order some of these if you just happen to be in these countries. The most intriguing would have to be the Japanese coffee can for coffee drinkers on the go.

We love Colombian coffee and are glad that it’s going to be around for a lot longer thanks to the work done by the Colombian Coffee Grower’s Federation. When Colombian coffee was severely threatened by the Roya fungus, the Federation’s research arm introduced a variety that was resistant to the fungus and, fortunately, it worked. Threats by different types of fungus are a very real concern for coffee farmers around the world, and the sad reality is that a lack of research, access to different varieties or financial circumstances mean that a number of affected farmers will not have the resources to get back on their feet.

While we love the ritual of making a pourover in the morning, we understand not every one loves to practice making concentric circles when they first wake up.  Traditional drip machines are great for convenience but sacrifice a lot of flavor.  Enter the Brazen Plus.  With variable temperature control, a extra-wide pulsating shower head and a pre-infusion mode, this SCAA-certified brewer has it all – though at USD 200 it doesn’t come cheap!

Coffee Links


In local news, white stem borer be damned, India looks poised for a record coffee harvest.

We touched on this last time, but this neat map of the world displays the popularity of instant versus brewed coffee. The most shocking country on there? Australia. Despite a booming speciality culture, 3/4 of coffee sales in Australia are of instant coffee.

We didn’t realise that coffee and it’s substitutes played such a crazily pervasive role during the American civil war (although hating imprisonment because it means you miss your daily dose of java does sound about right). According to one General, “No Mocha or Java ever tasted half so good as this rye-sweet-potato blend!” Our next small lot coffee perhaps?

Can you tell the difference between Bosnian and Turkish coffee? Whoa, let’s take a step back – did you know there’s something called Bosnian coffee?

And lastly, this gas-powered Aeropress station isn’t just in the news but is also on our wishlist for our next mela event.

Coffee Gifts with an Eye on Design

My list of well designed coffee related paraphernalia is quite long, but here are a few items on that list that we either own or hope to at some point! This list includes a range of products from brewing equipment to coffee accessories, but they all make equally great gifts for coffee-loving friends (unfortunately, getting your hands on some of these items may be tough if you’re in India or if you’re on a budget, but the list still makes for good online eye candy).






Initially funded by a Kickstarter campaign, the company is now offering incredibly elegant coffee brewing scales for sale on it’s website. There are a number of elements, including its contemporary design, that I love about this scale but my personal favourites include the fact that the conscious lack of buttons prevents coffee grinds from getting stuck on the scale and that the auto timer is set to go on longer to ensure that the scale doesn’t go off while you’re weighing your coffee (something that always seems to happen to me). For the true pourover geek, the scale comes with an app that syncs to your phone or tablet which gives you the real time measurement of your water flow rate and the ability to save and share recipes. A big thanks to Matt’s mom for bringing this over during her last visit to India!





This reusable and eco friendly cup comes in a variety of colours and has been very consciously designed with detailed Sustainability and FAQ sections on its website which discuss the materials used to create the keepCups and how to recycle them. One amongst many facts on the KeepCup website that stood out about this product  – “Over one year, the KeepCup, when compared to disposable cups, reduces landfill by at least 99%”. An added bonus is that you can select your own colours for each element that comprises the KeepCup (something I spent way too much time doing).





We decided to sell these items on our website because we realised that we were waking up every morning feeling so grateful that we owned them. The design of the buono kettle (above right) is very elegant. Even though we use it atleast three times a day to brew ourselves our daily pour over coffees, the refined, controlled stream of water that flows from its narrow spout never stops being mesmerising. The glass server (above left) seemed superfluous at first, but it has really made brewing multiple cups of coffee so much easier (and less messy!)





We would never have tried this aptly titled coffee dripper had a wonderful customer of ours not gifted it to us. Unlike normal pour over coffee drippers, the clever dripper is closed from the bottom. It’s only when you place the dripper over a cup that the levers on the bottom of the dripper open up, allowing the coffee that was brewing inside to start dripping into the container over which the dripper is placed. This design allows you to control the amount of time you’d like your coffee to brew. An added bonus is that you get a lid for the dripper so that the coffee remains hot while it’s brewing.





The aeropress is such a no-brainer-great-gift (for lack of a better term) – and we have written about it so often – that I thought I’d skip a detailed mention of one of our favourite brewing equipments. However, what I did want to mention are the metal Aeropress filters that you can use as an alternative to the paper filters that the Aeropress comes with. They are easy to rinse off and the holes in the filters allow for coffee oils and fines to enter your cup which adds some extra body and depth to the taste of the coffee. To learn more about these filters, you can read an earlier blog post that we wrote on how these metal filters change the taste of coffee.





In addition to the KeepCups, the design of these Joco Cups is also very sleek, but what really caught my attention was their 6 cup carrier made from birch wood. The downside is that this carrier only fits Joco Cups but I thought this was a very useful and innovative idea and one that’s perfect for bringing back coffee for friends or work colleagues. I also thought it was very neat that the circular inserts double up as coasters for your coffee cups.





This coffee scoop, made from birch wood, isn’t just beautiful to look at for its workmanship and simple, clean design, but it’s also very useful (as an aside, I also loved the packaging that the clip comes in).  You can use it to scoop coffee out of your coffee pouch and then to clip the pouch to retain the freshness of your coffee. One thing we have mentioned in a number of our blog articles and will continue to emphasise is that no pouch clip or vacuum sealed packaging can change the fact that all coffee stales 2 – 3 weeks after it is roasted, but if you don’t store your coffee well (which is where the Kapu clip comes in), you run the risk of having your coffee go stale even sooner.






I fell for all of the items that were created under Taika’s collection (yet another product from Finland) years ago. And there is nothing better than drinking a delicious cup of coffee from a beautifully designed cup. Make sure to view the colourful plates that go with each mug in the Taika collection.

Coffee Links

1. We’ve written about instant coffee in India before, but it’s really booming in China.


2. Looking to avoid the burnt taste when using your moka pot? Definitely watch this video.


3. High coffee prices look here to stay.  First it was leaf rust in Latin America , then the Brazil drought and now the white stem borer threatens India’s coffee .


4. Taking the pay what you want concept one step further – A coffee shop with no employees

What's in Your Crystals? Or How Instant Coffee is Created



About a month ago, we received a very sweet but poignant email from one of our customers.  He said he’d tried hot water, then he tried cold water, but that the coffee he ordered from us “just wouldn’t dissolve in water”, which prompted him to then ask the question,  “Is the coffee properly roasted?”.  When we explained that our coffee wasn’t instant and that he would need to use some type of brewing equipment to make it or we could refund his money, he was a great sport and said that he would figure out a way to brew it.  Besides highlighting that we’ve been blessed with the best and most open minded customers, his email was also a good reminder about the pervasiveness of instant coffee.


Given that so many people love instant coffee, it’s surprising that very few instant coffee consumers are aware of how instant coffee is actually created. Instant coffee begins its life as brewed coffee – this means that once the green coffee beans are roasted, they are ground and mixed with hot water.  From this point, there are two ways that this  coffee concoction is transformed into the instant crystals that so many of us grew up watching our parents mix into a cup of hot water.  One way consists of spraying the brewed coffee in a very fine mist across extremely hot air.  By the time the mist reaches the ground, the water has vaporized, leaving those familiar coffee crystals intact.  The second method is to freeze the brewed coffee slurry to – 40 degrees celcius, and then place the mixture in a vacuum. The resulting drop in pressure causes the ice to transform directly from a solid to a gas which also creates coffee crystals ready to be disolved in a cup of water.

instant coffee

In theory this sounds great.  No more measuring, grinding, brewing and timing, now to make a cup of coffee just simply scoop and stir!  But here’s the downside: the dehydration process also removes many of the pleasant flavor and aroma compounds that make coffee taste, like, well, coffee.  In order to compensate for this effect, instant coffee manufacturers capture the gases released when the beans are roasted and shoot them back into the coffee while it’s being packaged.  This spray method is particularly harmful as the hot air often imparts a scorched and bitter flavor – imagine brewing up a pot of coffee, then blasting it with another round of heat.  The other downside for those counting on the kick that coffee provides, is that instant coffee has nearly the half the caffeine concentration of a normal brew.


Because the process has such a detrimental effect on the flavor, coffee manufacturers wisely use the cheapest beans possible.  After all, if the manufacturing process is going to remove most of the flavor, why use flavorful beans to begin with?  In late September last year, we toured a curing works factory in Coorg, where green coffee beans undergo a final round of processing before being sent out to customers.  On one side of the warehouse,  we saw a wall stacked with hundreds of 60kgs bags of coffee.  The coffee had been sitting there since being harvested six months ago, subject to the heat of the summer and the humidity of the monsoon, all in open air.  As a result, most of the beans were bleached, having turned from bluish green to whitish gray removing much of the flavor in the process. We asked the owner what he was going to do with all the coffee.  “It’ll all be sold,” he said, completely nonchalantly.  “The instant coffee companies will buy anything.”

“Japanese-style” Iced Coffee

While we love the Hario’s Mizudashi cold brew pot for the set it and forget it convenience, what to do when you open the fridge and realize you forgot to brew your coffee overnight?  The answer: pour over ice brew.



Also known as Japanese ice brew on account of its popularity in Japan, this method is fast and straight-forward (we promise all of our recipes won’t be Japan-themed, next will be New Orleans-style iced coffee).   It’s exactly the same as making pour over coffee through a cone filter, except half of the water you’d use is placed in the brewing container as ice. The hot water that drips out of the filter instantly melts the ice, lowering the overall temperature of the finished coffee.


You end up with a refreshing cold glass of coffee which sidesteps the oxidized bitterness created by brewing hot coffee and keeping it in the fridge.  Using hot water also unlocks more aromatics than cold brewing, so it is great for highlighting the fruity, floral notes in a coffee.  In contrast, the cold brewing method reduces the acidity and instead focuses on the nutty, chocolate, sweet notes.  We recommend cold brewing if you’re adding milk and this over ice method for people who drink their coffee black!


Here’s how to do it, with inspiration from Counter Culture Coffee’s recipe.


What you need:

–       A pouring kettle (we used a Hario Buono)

–       A pour over cone filter (we used a Hario V60)

–       Filter paper

–       A glass or container to brew into

–       28 grams coffee, medium ground

–       240 ml water (approx. 1 cup) and the same amount of ice

–       Burr Grinder

–       Timer

–       Scale (optional, but helpful for calculating amounts and figuring out if you’ve poured enough).


  1. Bring your water to a boil. Use more than 1 cup, as you’ll need it for rinsing the filter.
  2. Grind your bean to a medium grind, with an almost sandy feel. Grinding immediately before brewing will immensely improve the quality of your coffee, as beans quickly lose their freshness once ground.
  3. Place your filter paper in the pour over filter. Fold over the seam in the filter to ensure an even surface and brew.
  4. Once the water has boiled, pour some to wet the filter paper. This will wash out any paper-y tastes and warm up the filter cone.
  5. Place the coffee grounds in the filter.
  6. Put the ice in the container you’ll be brewing into. 1 cup is 8 oz., and many standard ice cube trays create cubes that weigh an ounce, so 8 cubes will usually do it.
  7. Pour a little bit of water into the grounds, just enough to wet all of it. This is ‘blooming,’ getting the coffee ready to brew. Only a little bit of water, if any, should drip out of the filter. Wait 30 to 45 seconds after you first poured before starting again.
  8. Pour in a slow, even spiral, wetting all the grounds. Space out your pouring so brewing takes around 3 minutes. As you get towards the end of brewing, focus your pour at the center of the filter, otherwise the water will have to travel through more grounds and will overbrew.
  9. Enjoy the coffee! Adjust to your taste, but know that ice brew is excellent black.

Q & A With Shravan DS From Classics Synergy


Kalladeverapura Estate was the first farm we visited when we met with our growers in Karnataka. In this interview, we speak with Shravan, the CEO of Classics Synergy which owns Kalladeverapura Estate, and learn more about what makes Classics different from other coffee growers and about Kalladeverapura’s Pulp Sun Dried Arabica that has been really popular with our customers.


Image: Shravan DS, CEO of Classics Synergy  (source: Classics Synergy)


Q: Hi Shravan, can you tell us a little about how Classics got started?
A: It all started with my father and my uncle, Purnesh, both of whom were involved in starting up the company along with other family members. Since the coffee market became liberalized in the  ‘90s, we had wanted to do something different with our family coffee and wanted to improve the quality of our coffee and get a premium for it. So, Classics was really a formal representation of our family’s vision. And this goes back to ’95. We learned a lot about improving the quality of coffee by traveling with the Coffee Board of India to other coffee growing countries, and we slowly started forming a group of coffee growers. When the Specialty Coffee Association of India was officially formed, Ms Sunalini Menon was the natural choice as advisor for the group.


Image: Kalladeverapura  was one of the first estates we visited (source: Blue Tokai Coffee Roasters)


Q: When did you get involved with Classics?

A: In terms of formally reporting to work, I’ve been a part of Classics since 2006 but I’ve always been unofficially engaged with and immersed in our coffee business since I was in school.


Q: What does Classics do that’s different from the normal coffee grower in post harvest processing?

A: Our long term goal isn’t just to process the best coffee in the county but, hopefully, in the world. So, it’s not just the post harvesting process but the entire harvesting procedure from the beginning to the end that is different. And it’s based on years of experimentation and trying different things and seeing what our customers like.


Image: Coffee picker selecting ripe berries (source: Classics Synergy)


It starts right from picking the right fruit. A number of planters just pick all the fruit together before processing them. But, we have three different rounds of picking on our estate. The first two rounds are when the ripened fruits are picked and the third round is when everything else is removed. That’s how differently we do things in the first phase.


The coffee is then stored on the estate. Another common mistake that growers make is that they pick their coffee and place it in gunny bags in the sunlight. We take great care to provide proper shelter for the berries during this time. We then carry out a round of manual garbling. We take out all the bad or defect berries from each specific day of picking. Then the berries go through a machine called a Green Sorter. So, anything like twigs or extraneous matter which isn’t removed manually is removed by this machine.


The berries are then placed into a pulping unit where they go through fermentation from anywhere between 12 to 36 hours depending on whether we’re dealing with Arabica or Robusta. This is also determined by the specific block on the estate from which the beans have been picked.


The drying phase is the biggest challenge for any planter today. We use raised African beds during this phase. We’ve modified these to be able to fit in a hot blower. Two days after the beans have been drying on the African beds, we place them in our drying yard and make sure the moisture levels go down to about 12.5%.


Image: Raised beds for coffee drying (source: Classics Synergy)


The next important thing is to store the coffee properly. During storage, the coffee beans need a lot of air circulation from all sides including underneath them to be able to breathe. I know this sounds strange but if you go into your storage warehouse and you’re sweating, there’s a very good chance that your coffee beans are also sweating! And the added moisture on the beans ruins the quality of the beans. We try to treat the coffee much like a human being which is funny for people to believe.

Image: Pulp Sun Dried Arabica beans from Kalladeverapura. These beans tend to come in different shades of red due to the manner in which they’re processed. (Source: Blue Tokai Coffee Roasters)


The other thing we do differently is that at the curing works, our beans go through a sorting machine to take that extra step to ensure that only the best beans go to our customers. Most planters do nearly all these steps but we do them with a little extra care.


Q: You had mentioned that you ferment anywhere from 12 hours to 36 hours. Can you let us know a bit about how the taste of each would be different?

A: A 36  hour ferment is done with Robusta. When we discuss the 12-16 hour fermentation, that’s for Arabica. With the Pulp Sun Dried Arabica we don’t let it ferment for too long. Generally, a Pulp Sun Dried is a lot fruitier and has a lot of body. A washed coffee, on the other hand, is a lot more polished and balanced.


Doing a Pulp Sun Dried is a very risky proposition and there aren’t a lot of estates in India that do it. None of us growers are scientists and we need to experiment as much as we can.


Q: Why did you decide to do Pulp Sun Dried if it’s a risky propostion?
A: We were comfortable taking that risk because without trying new things how will you know whether they work or not? And we’re so glad we took that risk – our Pulp Sun Dried is very popular and we have a number of customers who are willing to pay a premium for it.


Image: Manual sorting of beans, also called garbling (source: Classics Synergy)


I stayed in Scotland for three years and I realized that Whisky is so beautifully processed and marketed there, that, although it’s just an agricultural product,  it ends up being much more than that. And that’s something we need to do with coffee in India.


Q: What are some of the future goals for Classics Coffee?

A: I think we’d like to size up our operations, get into cafes, retail more of our coffee and get into roasting. We’d like to be able to control the process of growing coffee beans to brewing coffee from the beginning to the end.


Q: Since you’re a part of the newer generation of coffee growers, what do you see as being a big difference between the elder generation of growers and your peers?

A: The older generation set the foundation for us. They were the ones who initially had to understand what specialty coffee was all about and set a structure for growing and processing it, and they were the ones who started meeting with our customers. They did that major part of the job and then they handed it over to us along with a set of very important guide lines. Our fathers established standards, associations and networks.


Of course, this is a growing market and there are always new challenges and competition that we need to face. When you look at my father and my uncle who entered the coffee business when they were my age, the market was in a different condition. We were such small time planters. Forget growing specialty coffee, growing good coffee in general was a challenge. Now it’s up to us, the younger generation, to take more calibrated risks and continue experimenting with the strong foundation that our fathers have left us with.


Q: Kalladeverapura was one of the first estates that we visited and we noticed how shade grown and bird friendly Indian coffee farms are. Can you talk a bit about what that means.

Image: A cow grazes on Kalladeverpura Estate which is shade grown and bird friendly (source: Blue Tokai Coffee Roasters)


A: Kalladeverapura is located in the area where coffee was first planted in India. 80% of trees in our plantation are natural forest trees which we will never cut. Some of them are a hundred years old. We maintain a balance between nature and the best planting practices. We make sure to give our coffee natural shade since coffee requires shade to grow. Secondly, it’s essential for us to keep the soil composition balanced which is done naturally in the forest, which also provides shelter to animals and birds, which in turn contribute to the balance of the soil. You absolutely need that mix to make sure your land is environmentally sustainable. Whatever you give to the soil comes back to help the growth of your plants. You have to take care of the land. That’s something that we have always believed in.


Q: What are three things you’d like our customers to know about your coffee?

A: Firstly, I’d like them to know that we take care of our product. We take extra care in every single step from planting to processing. This includes researching, experimenting and taking calibrated risks to make sure we constantly improve our product.


Image: Coffee tasting lab at Classics (source: Classics Synergy)

We also take care of the people who are taking care of our product. The happiness of the people who work on our farms means a lot to us.


Thirdly, we take care of the people who buy our coffee from us. After sales support means a lot to us. We have worked with a number of customers since we started and none of them has ever left us. If anyone has an issue, we make sure we deal with it.


Exploring Roast Levels

A customer wrote to us a few weeks ago and expressed an interest in exploring roast levels by having the same bean roasted at three different finishing points. While we normally have a 2.5 kg minimum for custom roasts, we’re all for exploring coffee so we were happy to oblige his request.  In doing so, we roasted ourselves a bit extra as we thought this would be fun exercise to document and we chose to use the Bibi Plantation arabica beans.


The same bean, roasted to the exact same level, will taste very different depending on how it’s brewed.  Light roasts generally don’t work well in espressos as the acidity becomes overwhelming. Since pourovers are best suited for black coffee, a pourover made from a vienna or french roast is bitterly unpleasant for most people’s palattes.


The Lineup:

Light Roast – Just to the tail end of first crack (Read Simon’s post to learn a bit more about first and second crack) – 211 C finish point


Medium Roast – The first few pops of second crack  – 224 C finish point (our normal Bibi Plantation AA roast which is available on our site)


Dark Roast – Well into second crack – 237 C finish point


So how did the various roasts taste? To start out, we tried the coffees using the traditional cupping method of pouring hot water over medium coarse grounds. We followed this up by brewing espresso shots for each roast.


Traditional cupping tast profiles:


The light roast had a sweet aroma, reminscient of slightly fermented grapes and the cinnamon spiciness of apple pie.  The body was very thin, and the acidity was at the forefront, with a green apple like pucker. It had a faint malty flavor and almost no bitterness.


Next we tried the medium roast.  No surprises here as we’ve been drinking this coffee for months.  The sweet aroma comes through strongly of grape, while malt flavors become more pronounced and taste slightly caramelized.   The acidity is reduced quite a bit with a red wine dryness rather than a sour pucker.

Ground coffee prior to cupping 


Last was the dark roast.  The aroma was very smoky, with a faint burnt rubber smell and just a hint of carmalized fruit.  The smokiness was also apparent when we took our first sips, with a bitter, classic dark roast flavor.  There was a hint of sweetness and vanilla in the finish, and a rich body.


Next up we tried espresso shots of each of the 3 roasts.  Most espresso roasts tend to be on the darker side as the concentrated nature of the drink means that the acidity in light roasted coffees can result in an overly sour flavor.  However, in the past few years, roasters have been going lighter to emphasize the bright, fruit flavors in coffee, much to the chagrin of traditionalists.


Espresso taste profiles:


The light roast had a very nutty aroma that led to a peanut-brittle like flavor in the coffee.  However, once the coffee cooled, the acidity became overwhelming reminiscent of sucking on a lemon rind.


In comparison, the medium roast still packed an acidic punch, but the overall flavor was much more balanced with roasted malt and caramel flavors coming through.


The dark roast produced a bit of a surprise. While the smoky aroma, strong bitter kick and lack of acidity were all expected, the body was thin and the crema was non-existent. Espresso roasts are traditionally quite dark in nature, but the combination of this particular bean at this dark a roast level seemingly fell flat.


Despite being brewed last, the dark roast on the far right has no lingering crema after a few sips.


So where is the sweet spot?  As a fan of brightness in coffee, my personal preference would lie a few degrees lighter than the medium roast for both drip and espressos (read more about brightness and the attributes of a good cup of coffee here).  However, I’ll be the first to admit that this would probably be an unpleasantly acidic coffee for most people, which is how we determined our medium roast level in the first place.  Nonetheless, it was an interesting exercise and we’ll be offering a special tasting sampler pack shortly for our customers who are interested in testing out flavours of different roasts on the same beans.



Tasting the Roots of Indian Coffee

Yemen should have a special place in every Indian coffee drinkers heart.  As legend has it, all Indian coffee is the progeny of a few seeds brought by a Sufi pilgrim named Baba Budan. In the late 17th century, Baba Budan set off from his home in what is now Chikmagalur for Haj in Mecca.  The Arabs had introduced coffee to the pilgrims in Mecca and all across the peninsula the coffee industry was booming.  Coffee shops became such popular places of gathering that there were several short-lived attempts to ban the drink to prevent any potential dissent from the free mixing of people.

On his way back home, Baba Budan stopped off in Yemeni port city of Mocha. Yemen had adopted strict controls on the trade of coffee, as the Arabian and Muslim African countries enjoyed a worldwide monopoly on coffee production, and the sale of live seeds was punishable by death. Nevertheless, the story goes that Baba Budan was able to procure seven live seeds, hid them under his belt and made it back to the Malabar coast in India undetected.  How much truth there is to this legend is difficult to ascertain – the Dutch were also known to be cultivating coffee in Malabar around the same time, though they could have also been using descendants of Budan’s famous seeds.  Interestingly, the Dutch were never successful ingrowing the plants in India, so they transported them to Sri Lanka where the industry flourished for more than a century before the coffee rust fungus decimated the industry.  Nevertheless, the results speak for themselves – Babu Budan attained sainthood, had a mountain range named after him and even adorns the name of cafes and beer.


Legend aside, we were excited to try some Yemeni coffee that we bought from Sweet Marias.  Yemeni coffee is notorious for poor processing and the fact that it is grown at relatively low altitudes in near drought conditions doesn’t help either.  The green coffee we bought reflected exactly that: lots of bleached beans, greens, browns, bits and broken.

Coming out of the roaster, the beans we’re equally unimpressive.  The lack of uniformity in the greens led to an uneven roast, with some beans very light and others scorched.



But no one drinks coffee based on appearance and all that matters is taste.  In that department, the Mokha Sharasi beans delivered.  Using our Aeropress, the roasted coffee had a great body that stood out immediately. There was a bit of a woody earthy quality and it was not surprising to have some off notes given the amount of defect beans in the sample.  The acidity was well balance, if muted, and we could taste the canteloupe but little of the plum and raisin that the tasting notes indicated.  The finish was spicy with a strong bitter chocolate flavor.  All in all, we were impressed.  With ancestral roots like this, it is little surprise that Indian coffee from Baba Budan’s region tastes great!



Decoding the Basics for a Good Cuppa

Namrata was recently interviewed by Little Black Book Delhi‘s Suchita on some coffee basics.  Interested in learning more about what makes good coffee? Read below….


So what is good coffee? Is it like wine or a book – completely subjective, or are there actual parameters?

N | This is a great question, and one that we’re asked frequently. There’s no definitive answer here, since what each of us likes is subjective, but there are criteria that have been set which define good quality coffee. In this way, coffee tasting, or cupping as it’s better known, is a lot like wine tasting. Interesting side fact – the 800 known flavor compounds that constitute coffee are double those in wine, which actually makes coffee a more complex beverage than wine.


Here are the five main attributes on which the quality of coffee is judged.

Aroma | When we cup coffee, the first thing we do is smell the dry coffee grounds and then the wet coffee grounds. The smell of the coffee really adds to the uniqueness of each type of coffee. Our olfactory senses help us smell the more complex aromas in coffee that make them unique – like whether they’re fruity or floral or nutty, for example. This helps us pick up smells that go beyond the four basic ones of salty, sweet, sour and bitter.


Acidity | I feel that this attribute of coffee in India isn’t much appreciated. For those unfamiliar with the phrase, this doesn’t refer to how the coffee makes your digestive system feel, but, as with wine, the acidity of a coffee is about how bright it is. A good way of thinking of it is as the tangy after taste of coffee. Coffee without any acidity is considered flat, which is a negative attribute.


The darker roasted the coffee, the less acidity it has. Around the world, the trend now is to consume light roasted coffee so that the complexity of the acidity comes through. People usually associate acidity with a lemon taste, but acidity can actually be much more than that – just think of the different types of fruits or foods you’ve eaten with a distinctive tangy or bright taste that you’ve enjoyed – the acidity of, for example, a tamarind, is very different from that of a strawberry. It’s the same with acidity in coffees. India has a long way to go before it can move away from its love of dark roasts, but we hope that more people will start to experiment with different types of lighter roasts soon, and enjoy the complexity of the acidity of different types of coffees.


Body | This refers to the texture of the coffee. Is your coffee watery? Does it feel “heavier” because it has more body? The body of your coffee is affected by the oils that are extracted during the brewing process. Coffee that lacks body is watery and thin, which is a negative attribute.


Flavor | This attribute is the most subjective and challenging for a new coffee taster. It refers to the balance of the first three attributes. When the body, aroma and acidity are in balance and no single component overpowers the others, then that cup of coffee is said to be a clean cup of coffee.


Aftertaste | Adopted from the world of wine tasting, this phrase refers to the finish of the cup. Does the taste of coffee linger in your mouth or does it fade quickly?


We had a professional coffee cupper once tell us that it usually takes people five years to begin to master the taste of coffee. For the majority of coffee lovers out there who would like to begin to hone their coffee tasting skills but don’t want to spend a chunk of their lives doing only that, here’s some great advice from Maxwell Colonna-Dashwood, UK’s 2012 Barista Championship Finalist and avid coffee blogger – “A great way to begin your tasting journey is to learn to identify stale versus fresh coffee. This demonstrates that although taste is highly subjective, there are indeed certain characteristics that most coffee drinkers would identify as desirable – freshness being a primary one.”


How does one know how strong coffee should be? Really, how much espresso is too much espresso?

We have customers writing in saying that they like their coffee “strong”. They’re surprised to hear that there’s no such thing as strong coffee per se, and that the strength of the coffee has to do with how it’s brewed. We shared this article from The Atlantic on how to make perfect coffee on our Facebook page, but the quote we featured bears repeating – ”the point is that strong coffee has almost nothing to do with bitterness, caffeine content, or the roast profile, and everything to do with the ratio of coffee to water in your cup.”


If you feel like your brew is coming out weaker than you’d like it to, add less water and more coffee grounds. It’s as easy as that. Experiment with the water and coffee ratios till you get what you like.


Also, most people associate “strong” coffee with dark roasted coffee because they say that they like the heavier caffeine kick. The irony of this is that when coffee is measured by volume, dark roasted coffees actually contain less caffeine than lighter roasted coffees.


What’s some good advice to follow before buying coffee?

Before you buy coffee, read the taste profile of the coffee very closely. Which are the light, medium and dark roasts on offer? Which ones are the more acidic or fruitier coffees? If you’re going to a roasterie, ask your roaster for a roast profile of his or her coffees, so that you can make an informed decision before you purchase anything. If you’re buying online, email your roaster and ask them roast related questions before you buy. Your roaster can help you make a decision based on your taste preferences.


Of course, our final piece of advice, as usual, is to know your roast date. All coffee goes stale two weeks after it’s roasted. Know when your coffee wasroasted and try to buy as much as you’ll consume for two weeks and then buy a fresh round of coffee again. That’s also a great way to start discerning freshly roasted coffee from stale coffee.